By Sasha Ray
Boston University News Service
New England dancers flocked to Porter Square’s Masonic Temple the evening of Feb. 20 for the first contra dance of 2022, hosted by the Boston Intergenerational Dance Advocates.
This event was BIDA’s first since February 2020, after the pandemic lockdown suspended the world of contra indefinitely. Newcomers and longtime participants in the world of high-energy social folk dancing events dusted off their dancing shoes to get back in the groove they’d been missing for the past two years.
Contra dancing is a unique, unusual, high-energy form of both exercise and social connection. Accompanying the untitled band, a caller talked the sets through, using jargon like “hey,” “right-shoulder-round,” and “do-si-do.”
Following the 7 p.m. lesson for beginners, four lines took hands four. The sound of fiddle music filled the room, picking up speed through progression. Petronellas, syncopated claps, accentuated pauses in the music and stamping heels against the hardwood floor replaced the muffled sound of shuffling feet.
“You make us feel really good, this is amazing,” said Will Mentor, the hired caller of the night, in response to roaring acclaim. “Thank you for being here.”
Previously a resident of Massachusetts, Max Hogue and his wife, Sarah Hirsch, made the trek from North Kingston, Rhode Island, having moved during BIDA’s extensive hiatus.
“It’s funny. Being back here … One person told me that it almost feels like a memory because the space hasn’t changed in two years,” said Hogue, 31. “A lot of the same faces are coming back. It just feels really nice to have that community gathering space that we can do again.”
A record number of attendees reflected equal parts joy and desperation to get back on the dance floor and reconnect with a community separated for what had been far too long for many of them.
Organizers ensured a fun, yet COVID-19-conscious event for new and returning members of the contra dance community with masks, vaccinated attendees, hand sanitizing stations and ventilation systems.
The event left nearly every participant in high spirits and staggering home on tired legs, many of them vowing to return next time. BIDA’s next contra will be March 6 at 7 p.m.